Advertising is the WD-40 of the economy. It greases the gears, connecting the creators of goods and services to the people that want and need them. In the process, jobs are created, families are provided for, and communities are sustained. That is a purpose worth fulfilling. But just as important, though less obvious, is the fact that advertising finances the vast majority of our media ecosystem—everything from social media to connected television to gaming and mobile applications. As a result, the health of that ecosystem—the stories that get told, the investment possible for journalism, the content our kids are exposed to, the facts on which we base our democratic deliberation—are all dependent on what our industry chooses to finance and how. We must all ask ourselves if we are rising to the challenge of financing the right things.
Ensuring that advertising spend continues to make the critical connection between producer and consumer while also financing a healthy ecosystem—one healthy for our democracy, our kids, and our mental health—is the challenge for the next wave of programmatic advertising. To succeed, it will take brands that care about purpose, technology built for purpose, and authentic messaging and efforts that align brand values with advertising spend.
The importance of brand purpose
Brands recognize the need to make their purpose, their reason for being, the core of their message to consumers. The Association of National Advertisers surveyed their members on the importance of purpose and the response was overwhelming. In their report, the quotes from leading marketers made the case plain. “My job as a marketer is to express our purpose and share it with the world, and to realize that it may not be for everyone, but it will be meaningful and important to those who find resonance with its mission,” said Geoff Seeley, global marketing director at Airbnb. “That’s how you remain a brand people embrace and want to be involved with.”
The report also cites a Kantar Consulting survey of consumers that found that 72% said more companies should take a stand on social issues and 85% said that they appreciate it when a brand makes its values clear. The desires of CMOs and consumers are aligned. Our tools help connect them.
Curated multicultural and news marketplaces for brands that value diversity and journalism
The Purpose-Driven Advertising initiative we have created at MediaMath starts with the idea that brands want to reach diverse audiences, support minority publishers, preserve the open Internet, and reward quality content with journalistic standards. We have created two curated markets as the foundation of the effort to enable that investment: a multicultural marketplace and a news marketplace.
In the wake of the rising awareness of the need for reform in policing after the George Floyd incident, multiple major brands came out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement. Major brands have committed to investing in minority employees, communities, and businesses. This is meant to be a movement, not a moment.
That got us thinking about how their marketing spend could help. Our multicultural marketplace is composed of close to 1,000 minority-owned publishers. Investing in that media finances the telling of stories we all need to hear, makes authentic the commitment to economic development in minority communities, and connects brands to an audience that needs and wants to hear their message. Using additional tools to expand reach, brands can also use audiences of consumers who have self-identified as supporting BLM and communicate their solidarity there as well. If we really care about ensuring that the needs and lives of minorities in America are heard and met, then we can’t let those stories drown in a sea of lowest common denominator content intended simply to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
Tools enabling brands to help make the Internet safe and suitable for commerce and discourse
Beyond elevating minority voices, we need to make sure that those who would abuse the Internet understand that the right to free speech is not a right to free amplification of division and hate. The #StopHateforProfit boycott of Facebook this summer highlighted the need for our industry to elevate and use tools to protect brands from financing hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation. Too many marketers are doing so unwittingly today.
We have partnered with NewsGuard and are working with the Global Disinformation Index to put in place some baseline protections to ensure that our clients are not financing misinformation and disinformation. And we make those organizations’ more advanced tools available for more intensive protection as well.
NewsGuard rates the nearly 6,000 websites responsible for approximately 95% of all the news and information consumed and shared online in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Italy. Their ratings icon provides useful information to educate both readers and advertisers on the quality of the journalism on the Internet and makes it possible to disinvest from questionable news content.
Making it all easy to execute
We get that many advertisers will remain social-first in their digital strategies and that we must make running that same creative on the open Internet easy. Our partnerships with Spaceback and TripleLift enable an efficient shift in marketer spend from user-generated content to trusted publishers running the same creative brands are running on social. Brands can take that creative to our multicultural or news marketplaces or out to the open Internet and change the incentives and dynamics of our ecosystem while encouraging the development of safe, independent content and services across the Internet.
It’s time to put our money where our mouths are
The proclamations of commitment to purpose and progress are many and vocal across the world’s leading brands. As a demand-side provider of advertising technology, where we sit in the supply chain enables us to help our clients manage their media spend to meet their marketing goals. Through our Purpose-Driven Advertising initiative and with our tech and media partners and clients, we want to differentiate ourselves by helping put advertising to more intentional use. Our suite of purpose-driven advertising products and solutions are designed to help our clients communicate authentic messages, form genuine connections with consumers, and ensure that their campaigns further the beliefs and causes for which they stand. Let’s turn words into action and make advertising spend a force for good.